Day 22 – Gibraltar, United Kingdom

The wind and sea currents last night postponed our arrival in Gibraltar by an hour but no matter. Our tour company was aware and not inconvenienced by same.

The port view is certainly not one of the most attractive we have had although there were some interesting aspects. Be that as it may we’re not here to spend a lot of time watching the goings on at dock level. Out and about we must go!

Gibraltar is not an island as it directly connected to Spain by an isthmus. Over this some 10,000 workers come each day to work in Gibraltar. To avoid mass confusion, despite being part of the UK, left hand driving was discontinued in 1929. There is a population of about 33,000 actually living here, but given tourism and workers, that swells considerably on a daily basis.

If you’re a local (and you can apply for that status if you’ve lived here for 10 years or more) you do enjoy a number of benefits. Public transit is free for locals and government subsidized housing brings a normally priced £1,000 per month apartment down to a much more reasonable £120. Even cheaper if you’re a senior at £90 per month.

University education is also highly subsidized providing you have good marks and are prepared to put a written case together as to why you should receive it. It can end up to be fully paid so it is worth the time and effort.

The government will also assist your purchase of an apartment. For instance, if the purchase price is £200,000, you put up half (mortgage, cash, combination) and the government will supply the other half. When your half is fully paid, you and the government own your apartment. You can then choose to pay off the other half over time at NO interest. Not a bad deal.

There has been an immense amount of reclaimed land over that past few decades with another project currently underway. That cost will come to about £300 Million baring any subsequent unforeseen circumstances (which we All know never happen!).

Our trip up the Rock takes us past their prison which holds a whopping 96 prisoners. There is very little crime here so the need for bigger just isn’t there. Yet.

A little farther on and we pass the mural of the Battle of Trafalgar.

The trip up the Rock provides a few more photo ops given our height. One of which is a tribute to the Pillars of Hercules…and one of his support staff.

The next stop further up is St. Michaels Cave. There are some 200 caves in the Rock and St. Michaels is the largest and most amazing. Concerts of various types are held here often. All year, visitors are privy to a most amazing light and sound fiesta. The meager images I can provide will do little more than whet your appetite to visit here personally.

I may have decapitated the angel… 🙁

A small representation

Another stop even further up brings us to the monkeys. Macaques monkeys are the talk of the Rock by tens of thousands of visitors each year. Residing mostly near the top of the Rock, they are a constant source of amusement and sometimes consternation, as tales of their thievery regale everywhere. We are told they don’t steal that much but it is best to leave them be. And there is a £500 fine for feeding them. People food and the monkey’s constitution don’t coexist that well. One of them decided the hood of our van was as good a place as any to sit.

This location also provides us with a terrific view of the harbor, our ship and the airport. Which, interestingly enough, is the 5th most dangerous airport in the world. Not for the fact that a very well used road crosses right through it. Rather because of the heavy duty cross-winds that plague the area.

They do close it to traffic when planes are landing or taking off. 🙂

On to the war tunnels we go. During WWII up to 16K troops needed to survive for as long as 16 months, protected by the Rock. Canadian and British troops built 32 miles of tunnels inside the rock. Hollowing out kitchens, hospital areas, sleeping accommodations, communication rooms and supplying electricity and sanitation facilities to house the soldiers was a monumental task. The Rock is made up of Jurassic period limestone that is about 200 Million years old. Maybe a little easier to work through than granite, but still far from an easy job.

Gibraltar is the southern most point of the Iberian peninsula. It’s been inhabited since around 711 AD when the Moors came over from North Africa. Spanish conquerors invaded in 1462 and eventually got tired of it. Giving to the Brits in 1794 for free (basically) it’s been that way ever since. Spain now would like to have it back, but Britain is…reluctant.

Tourism is the biggest industry here although it also acts as a humungous gas station for ships passing through the area. With no tax on the gas/diesel it’s certainly a cheap place to top up the tank. In fact, our ship is filling later today…at the rate of 100 TONS per Hour. But…it uses about 1 ton per hour when underway so I guess it’s all relative. 🙂

Our tour guide, Paul, has been the most outstanding wealth of information. This tour and our wine tour in Bolgheri (with Massimo) have proven once more that the guide can make (or break) a tour. These two have definitely MADE the tours. My words are such a small part of the information each have given. To do either of them justice would take more pages than you would be willing to read. Listening to each borders on information overload in the most delightful way.

Paul leaves us on main street with instructions on how to find the Best fish and chips in town. After all, when in Britain… We found it (with only minimal interruption due to shoe/purse store investigation) after finding several other photographic gems along the way.

Canada seems to have a tax fixation with liquor, especially when you look at the prices we found in stores along our way. And keep in mind a lot of these items were 1 liter in volume…not just the 750 ml we are more accustomed to.

When we found Roy’s, we also discovered a long waiting line. A good indication of its quality I think. In a bit we managed to sit and order. Paul did suggest that ordering a regular might prove to be a challenge, but SOMEBODY had to take him up on it. Three of us had a small and were more than satisfied. It did make the long walk back to the ship just a tad longer however.

Thankfully tomorrow is another sea day. With a little luck and a little more ambition, I may get another post done and uploaded. We’ll see.. 🙂

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